The Zoologist/4th series, vol 6 (1902)/Issue 727/Obituary for Lionel de Niceville

Obituary for Lionel de Niceville  (1902) 
by Charles Thomas Bingham

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 6, issue 727, January 1902, p. 21–22


Lionel de Niceville.

The last Indian mail brought the sad news of the death, from malarial fever, of Mr. Lionel de Niceville, the eminent lepidopterist. For many years Mr. de Niceville worked unremittingly and enthusiastically at Eastern Lepidoptera, devoting special attention to the butterflies. His unrivalled knowledge, gained not only by a study of the literature of the subject, but by years of practical work and collecting in the field, he embodied in his well-known book, "The Butterflies of India, Burma, and Ceylon," which unfortunately he has not lived to finish. Numerous papers, however, in scientific journals testify to his industry and knowledge of Eastern butterflies. It is greatly to be regretted that only three volumes of 'The Butterflies' have been published. Vol. i. was written in collaboration with Col. G.F.L. Marshall; vols. ii. and iii. were written and published entirely by Mr. de Niceville. It was unfortunate that the volumes were only issued at long intervals, for, notwithstanding the popularity of butterflies with collectors, the work was published at a considerable pecuniary loss to the author.

Last year Mr. de Niceville accepted the post of Government Entomologist at the Indian Museum, and it was characteristic of him to enter on his work with the zeal and thoroughness he showed in all things. Indeed, his sad death is in a manner attributable to the keen sense of duty that led him, in spite of warnings from friends, as to the deadly unhealthiness of the Terai jungles in autumn, to proceed thither on purpose to investigate the ravages of insect-pests in the tea-gardens.

I do not attempt in this short notice any appreciation of Mr. de Niceville's scientific work; I write of him simply as a friend whose untimely loss I, in common with the scores of friends he had in India, deeply deplore.

I made Mr. de Niceville's acquaintance in 1888, and in the years that followed we were not only in constant correspondence, but he paid several visits to me in Burma. In 1891 he accompanied me for the first time into the forests in Tenasserim on a collecting trip, and a pleasanter fellow-traveller and more cheery companion it would be difficult to find. I shall never forget his almost boyish delight and enthusiasm on our first day's march into the forests. It was a hot fine day in October following a week of rain, and the abundance of the varied insect-life of a tropical forest was marvellous to behold, and seemed to strike De Niceville, who had for months been confined to the drudgery of an office in Calcutta, with a delight quite inexpressible in words. How we rushed about that day, with net, bottle, and collecting-box in constant use, until far on in the afternoon, tired, dripping with perspiration, but still longing to continue collecting, we sat down on the bank of a little mountain stream to count our spoil. Even then De Niceville's thought was for others. Looking at the clouds of butterflies swarming on the sands at our feet, and flitting around us, he remarked:—"What wouldn't I give to have ——[mentioning a mutual friend of ours at home—the very Nestor among lepidopterists] out here; he would enjoy it so."

To so ardent a naturalist it was a labour of love to amass a vast collection, and to tend it with unremitting care. I am glad to learn that this valuable result of De Niceville's work has been acquired by the Indian Museum, where so much of his best work was done.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.


The longest-living author of this work died in 1925, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 97 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.